Tubman Museum now open

by LP Green, II

After 15 years of planning and construction, the Tubman Museum opened on May 16th to the public. Founded in 1981, Macon, Georgia’s Tubman Museum is the largest museum in the Southeast dedicated to African American art, history and culture. The Tubman Museum is transitioning from its current location, an 8,500 square-foot building to a new 49,000 square-foot facility. “We are excited to finally be able to share the new Tubman Museum with the Macon community and the Southeast region,” said Dr. Andy Ambrose, Executive Director. “Our collections warrant a world class space to showcase these phenomenal artists and their pieces. We have so many stories that have gone untold because we didn’t have the square footage to share them. Our new facility allows us to finally exhibit African-American art, history and culture in a way that it deserves.” The new Tubman Museum is located in the heart of downtown Macon in the Cherry Street Plaza.

The new facility features five primary exhibitions:

• Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her people combines historical documents and photographs with works of art that address the legacy of Harriet Tubman as an abolitionist, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and an activist for the rights of African Americans and women. The exhibit includes works by twentieth century masters like Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, John Biggers, and William H. Johnson, as well as by younger contemporary artists, and a mix of academic and outsider art. The exhibition features works loaned from the Spelman College Museum of Art, the DuSable Museum in Chicago, and the Hampton University Museum in Virginia. This exhibit will be on view through January 2016.

• Black Artists of Georgia brings together collections of both academic and self-taught artists that confront cultural assumptions. Seeking to dispel stereotypical ideas about the subjects, media, imagery, and intentions of so-called “Black Art,” this special exhibition celebrates the diversity of contemporary visual expression found within the community of African American artists in Georgia. Black Artists of Georgia features 49 works, executed in a variety of media, from 40 different artists, including Kojo Griffin, Romare Bearden, and Ana Bel Lee.

• The History of the Dream is a series of textile panels from a collection of over 130 commissioned works of art by prolific fabric artist, Wini McQueen. These selected works pay homage to the individuals, institutions and organizations that have made a positive contribution to the quality of life in Macon, Georgia, and who were instrumental in the founding and development of the Tubman Museum.

• From Africa to America is a chronological mural made up of nine panels by Wilfred Stroud. Each panel explores and celebrates a different era in African American history.

• From the Minds of African Americans celebrates the ingenuity, as well as the perseverance and creativity of African Americans by highlighting inventors of items like the Super Soaker™ and the gas mask. “We are especially pleased to be able to present the new Black Artists of Georgia exhibition as a testament to the abundant variety of cultural influences and aesthetic choices that can be found within Georgia’s community of African American artists,” said Jeff Bruce, Director of Exhibitions. “Though it features only a small sampling of the works of those artists, this exhibition constitutes an important marker in the cultural and artistic landscape of the Southeast.”

The new Tubman Museum was developed by award-winning museum architects and planners, VernerJohnson. VernerJohnson’s architectural design found its inspiration in the Tubman Museum’s own collection. Like many forms of African and African American art, the building’s basic structure and profile are simple and clear but are embellished with layers of nuance and symbolism. The brick portions of the façade are laid up in bands of alternating colors of brick which recall the traditional patterned brickwork of Macon’s African American craft masons and are also reminiscent of traditional African and African American basket and textile weave patterns. The museum’s north and south facades are large “canvases” in the color of a naturally-occurring clay from West Africa called edo, comparable to Georgia’s red clay soils. A ribbed elliptical copper dome, intersected by two ridged roofs, is located over the museum’s central public space and is essentially an ornamental “hat” for the building inspired by BaLuba masks and traditional African ceremonial headdress.

Normal operating hours of the Tubman Museum will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday. Adult tickets are $10 and child (ages 3-17) tickets are $6. Memberships start at $20 per year and include unlimited free admission for one year, a 10% discount at the gift shop and access to special events.

To learn more about the Tubman Museum, go to www.tubmanmuseum.com or call (478) 743-8544. Get social with the Tubman on Twitter and Instagram @TubmanMuseum and on Facebook.

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